Once every ten years, the British Film Institute publishes in its Sight & Sound magazine a list of the top ten greatest films of all time. This year, Vertigo pulled off an upset, taking the number one spot from Citizen Kane, which had held steady at the top since 1962.
After the 2012 list came out in August, there was a bit of grumbling from certain corners about the rankings — the guy in charge had it in for Citizen Kane; there were no remotely new movies on the list; we shouldn't be ranking movies like this in the first place — but ultimately, it's hard to deny the merits of the BFI selections. There's a pretty straightforward calculus that defines what goes into a good movie: writing, acting, mise-en-scene, cinematography, complexity of themes, presence of a family-friendly rap over the closing credits (Lol ;). We like to have fun here, folks.). What actually makes a movie profoundly watchable is far harder to pin down.
The Thing is not necessarily a better movie than Tokyo Story — it definitely isn't — but it is far more watchable. Sometimes there's significant overlap between watchability and objective quality, as with the first two Godfather movies, but other times they're worlds apart. Barry Lyndon is good. Fast Five is watchable.
The only real trend I've noticed that seems to cut across all deeply watchable movies is that they tend to be more noticeably comprised of a series of almost invariably awesome and memorable scenes than a typical movie might be. When you watch Bicycle Thieves, the whole thing's of a piece. When you watch Goodfellas, every time the action shifts to a new scene, you go, "aw shit, aw shit, hold up, hold up, this is such a great scene. hey, hey, are you watching? god, i love this scene!" and then you start mouthing along with the dialogue and nervously looking over at anyone else who might be in the room to make sure they're paying rapt attention.
The most watchable movies are also such that any time you flip across them on TV, you feel compelled to watch them to the very end. Again, an example: If you come across Rashomon an hour into the movie but you're supposed to meet a friend in 20 minutes, you'll probably just go ahead and turn off the TV. You will not do so with The Big Lebowski.
So with all this in mind, I'm introducing Progressive Boink's first bracket. Together, we're going to determine the most watchable movie in the world. I've already tossed out a few initial nominations in the text (namely, Goodfellas, Godfather I & II, The Thing, The Big Lebowski). Use the comments below to nominate your own choices, briefly explaining them if you so choose (an impassioned defense, while not strictly necessary, might be a big help while I'm culling the picks for the first round of voting). You can also tweet them to me at @dalykyle or to Progressive Boink at @pboink. Voting will start once we've got a solid first round to go on. Gogogogogogo